Getting Value From Your Condition Based Maintenance Program
I’m talking on the phone with a client who has been slowly but deliberately getting their maintenance organization up to speed with items they internally identified as “critical gaps” in need to improve equipment reliability.
“I think if you compared us to other manufacturing maintenance organizations we would be somewhere in the top 30 percent. We have come a long way in the last 3 years, we now have 5 condition based technologies in use on a regular basis; Vibration Analysis, Airborne Ultrasound, Thermal Imaging, Motor Circuit Evaluation and Oil Analysis. As a result, we now know a lot more about what is coming at us than we did before and we can manage our resources to deal with the impending failures.”
This sounds great. Using condition based technologies can certainly help to reduce maintenance costs and improve equipment reliability provided both the maintenance and operations organizations have a clear understanding of how the technologies work and why we need to continue to use them.
I need to know where they are so I ask; with the technologies in place, you must have seen a significant improvement in OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) and a reduction in maintenance costs?
“No, not like I was expecting. I mean we have seen improvements on some lines, but it seems we make progress and then we’ll have another rash of failures. It’s frustrating because I think our Operations Manager gets that we need the technologies but at the same time he’s frustrated that we see some of the same failures over and over again.”
Ok, tell me this, you mentioned that you could be running well and then have this rash of failures. Did you detect these failures with various technologies or were they a result of a failure mode not covered by a specific technology?
“I don’t think I have an answer for that. Off the top of my head I would say some of each, but more important, we continue to experience failures where we detect potential failure but have no idea what caused it. The report from the CMB Technician might say we had imbalance or looseness but it never points out the cause. So, we install a new pump or gearbox, cross our fingers and hope the next one lasts longer.”
Do you remember what Albert Einstein said? That the definition of insanity was doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. You need to take a step back and work to identify the failure modes or causes for these potential failures. It’s good that you have gotten to the point that Operations understands that once we have detected point P we need to plan, schedule and replace the item. Now we need to get both Operations and Maintenance to work to identify and eliminate the causes.
Chances are a large percentage of the reoccurring failures you’re experiencing are design, installation or operations related. Unless you change the design; an inadequate foundation for example, the failure mode will return. Unless we take the time to ensure our maintenance technicians are following precision maintenance standards when they install our equipment, the same failure will continue to occur. And, we need to ensure that we have operations standards regarding how we start up, operate and shut down the equipment. Remember the technology will only identify the change in condition, it’s up to us to determine the cause.
“I guess maybe we’re not in the top 30% after all.”
Don’t be too hard on yourself, if you have continued to improve year after year you’re moving in the right direction. Very few companies can even say that. We both know this is a journey where everyone needs to continue to learn. None of the things we talked about were severe mistakes or steps backwards; the important thing is to continue to ask questions when you’re doing what you think is the right thing and you don’t get the expected result.
On top of this you are clearly doing a lot of things right. You have 5 technologies in place and your technicians can detect potential failures. You have a client who understands that we need to address these failures instead of continuing to run the equipment to the point where we have secondary damage. And most important you are not so confident that you have stopped asking questions.
Some things to consider as when we look to advance our Condition Monitoring or Condition Based Maintenance programs;
1. When we look at our CBM reports, what percent of the assets in alarm do we attempt to identify the failure mode causing the alarm?
2. Looking at the same reports over a given period of time, what percent of our asset in alarm were caused by installation errors?
3. With the same group, what percent were cause by operating errors?
As usual I am interested in your comments and questions. The objective here is continuous improvement based on learning and sharing our experiences!
Doug Plucknette, Principal & World-Wide RCM Discipline Leader at Allied Reliability Group is a Reliability Engineering Consultant and Published Author of “Reliability Centered Maintenance using RCM Blitz™ and Clean, Green and Reliable. Having created the RCM Blitz™ Methodology he has been an RCM Practitioner and Trainer for over 20 years. Doug resides in Spencerport, NY and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org